South West Region Annual Report – 2012


(Craig Fees)

Gloucestershire is a big county with much going on, as will be evident from the sample of activity below. There is certainly more, and it would be good to hear news of other oral history-related developments and projects.
This report is grouped into four main sections in order to indicate both how diverse the activity is within Gloucestershire, and how fortunate it is to have three active and interactive centres of oral history within the County. Section 1 is on General Activity Around the County; Section 2 is on activity related to the University of Gloucestershire; Section 3 is on activity related to the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre; and Section 3 is on activity related to Gloucestershire Archives.


The Great Gloucester Story

In July the BBC and Gloucester City Museum collaborated to host a day of interactive events and exhibitors celebrating the history of Gloucester over the last 1,600 years, with BBC Learning “exploring place names, surnames, hidden landscapes and recording oral history provided by local residents.”

Yate District Oral History Project book launch

The Yate Oral History Project has published its Photographic History of Yate, “the largest assembly of local images put together and comprises many hitherto unseen images”, with over 290 photographs. See:


This ongoing oral history project, established to record the history and recollections of the Cashes Green area of Stroud, has a Facebook page at:

“All Along the Cotswold Canals”

Following training by West Midlands Regional Networker Julia Letts, this exciting project of the Cotswolds Canals Restoration Project recorded memories and created a 22-point audio trail which can be accessed on smartphones while walking the canal, or downloaded from the website:

Ashton Keynes School Jubilee Project

Assisted by community artist Kathryn Gray, Year 5 and 6 pupils from Ashton Keynes School used a £1,600 grant from the Malmesbury Area Board to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee by recording interviews with twelve Ashton Keynes villagers about life in the 1950s, and translating their memories into works of art.

“Back to the Future”

Running from June 2011 to December 2012, “Back to the Future” is a Heritage Lottery Funded project of the Black Southwest Network which looks at the impact on and contribution to the cultural landscape of Southwest England by Black and Minority Ethnic organisations, using oral history interviews with members of the three most prominent BME organizations in Gloucester and other Southwest communities.


“You Asked Me So I’m Telling You”

In April, University of Gloucestershire PhD student Christian O’Connell gave a paper entitled ‘”You Asked Me So I’m Telling You:” Oral History and Photography in Paul Oliver’s Conversation with the Blues’ at the 57th Annual British Association of American Studies (BAAS) Conference at the University of Manchester.

“The Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies”

In September, Melanie Ilic, Reader in History at the University of Gloucestershire, co-organised a conference on ‘The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: the Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies’ in Lithuania. Her book, Life Stories of Soviet Women: the Interwar Generation, drawing on her life history research, talking to women about their everyday lives during Soviet times, is due to appear from Routledge in 2013.

“Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity in the Scottish Highlands”

Dr Iain Robertson, Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Gloucestershire has been awarded a Research Grant by the University as part of a broader project on the ‘Glasgow Gaels’, using oral history to look specifically at the construction of visual cultural identity within the crofting communities of Lochs and Harris on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. In September the project’s fieldworker, archaeologist Dr. Mary MacLeod, herself a crofter, gave the first in a new series of staff History seminars at the University, in a stimulating and well-received presentation called “Memory, Cultural Identity and Landscape: the perils and pitfalls of oral historical work in the Outer Hebrides”.


The Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) now has an active Facebook Page, a thoroughly renewed website, and a Twitter account @pettconnect.!

“Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children”

PETT’s 18-month Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children: An oral history of residential therapeutic childcare c. 1930 – c. 1980” reached a successful conclusion, producing 282 audio and video recordings and 119 transcripts as well as 8 websites presenting 130 documents, 5 digital stories, 428 photographs, 38 audio/video selections, 23 transcript selections, and 19 personal written accounts.
In recognition of the achievements of the project, the Community Archives and Heritage Group awarded PETT its first “Most Impactful Archive of the Year” award. The award was received at the University of London with the help of students from Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa, who had both recorded interviews and worked with former ‘maladjusted’ children to produce a successful theatre production. A detailed report on the project’s history, development, design, outputs and outcomes was uploaded to the project website,

There have been several recording-fest “Archive Weekends” since the end of the project, and oral history recording has continued elsewhere, with digital stories and other material continuing to be developed and uploaded to the “otherpeopleschildren” website by volunteers. The Archive continues to make other recordings, loan equipment, and to offer support, encouragement and guidance generally.

In July Project Oral Historian Gemma Geldart, Project Administrator/Transcriptionist Chris Long, and Trinity Catholic School Assistant Principal Stephen Steinhaus all gave papers relating to the “Therapeutic Living” project at the Oral History Society’s annual conference in Southampton. In September, at the invitation of the organisers, Gemma Geldart gave a paper drawing on the project at the “Understanding Parenting: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” Conference at the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick.

Craig Fees, Regional Networker:

As Archivist, I continue to be based at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre. During the past year, alongside my duties as Regional Networker for Gloucestershire, I was Project Manager for PETT’s “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children” project, continued as a Trustee/Committee member of the Oral History Society, co-organised and chaired several sessions at the Oral History Society’s annual conference “Displaced Childhoods: Oral history and traumatic experiences”, consulted on Dr. Iain Robertson’s “Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity” project at the University of Gloucestershire, conducted a seminar for history students on oral history at the University and, as course author and tutor on the “Sound and Vision” distance learning module for the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee, thoroughly rewrote the Unit on oral history.


“Hidden Lives of Barton and Tredworth”

Launched in March 2011, and managed by The National Archives Skills for the Future Trainee Ollie Taylor, this Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project between the Gloucester Theatre Company, Gloucestershire Archives, and the University of Gloucestershire, has resulted in an attractive and richly informative website, a series of Reminiscence Theatre performances by a group of young actors from the Gloucester Theatre Company, over 60 interviews, and a Youtube channel with 10 Digital Stories and excerpts from the “Hidden Lives” theatre production.

“The Fielding and Platt Community Archive Project”

Led by Gloucestershire Archives and Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, directed by project officer Ollie Taylor, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this oral history-based project kicked off in June 2012 to record, preserve, and celebrate major international engineering firm Fielding and Platt’s history and impact on Gloucester. There have been over 20 interviews to date, there is an attractive and growing website, and considerable outreach and development activity.

“History of Gloucester Rugby Club”

Awarded a three-year ‘Your Heritage’ grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2008, and supported by Gloucester Rugby Club, Gloucestershire Archives, and the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, the ‘History of Gloucester Rugby Club’ project continues to add recorded interviews to the rich and active project website.